His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project

Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae: A Historical Thriller

Book - 2016
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Man Booker Prize Finalist, LA Times Book Prize Finalist, New York Times Editor's Choice , and an American Booksellers Association National Indie Bestseller!

Named a Best Book of 2016 by Newsweek , NPR , The Guardian , The Telegraph , and The Sunday Times !

In the smash hit historical thriller that the New York Times Book Review calls "thought provoking fiction," a brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae's own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae's motive and his sanity into question.

Graeme Macrae Burnet's multilayered narrative--centered around an unreliable narrator--will keep the reader guessing to the very end. His Bloody Project is a deeply imagined crime novel that is both thrilling and luridly entertaining from an exceptional new voice.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Skyhorse Publishing,, 2016
Edition: First Skyhorse Publishing edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781510719217
Branch Call Number: FIC BUR
Characteristics: 290 pages : map ; 24 cm


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Nov 30, 2017

Interesting and captivating description of rural life in the second half of 19th century Scotland. A good psychological and social thriller.

Nov 03, 2017

There is pointedly no omniscience in "His Bloody Project." The set of historical "documents" sets up a particularly obscure camera through which we can view the cottage life, the rude surroundings, the insolence of office, and the brutal mass killings that ensue in a tiny Scottish village. Burnet uses language in a conscious evocation of the roughness of his characters, and presents reality only in parallax view: it is something we must triangulate from the intensely biased accounts of a handful of all-too human actors and observers. Placing the omissions and contradictions of human perception at the heart of an unfathomable mystery and a courtroom trial, the novel evokes the reality-questioning of Kurosawa's "Rashomon."

Jul 19, 2017

I'd called this a murder mystery, but you already know who committed the murder. Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet's second novel is striking in two ways: it's set in rural 19th century Scotland and it's presented as a series of historical documents "discovered" by the author. The longest section is the confession of the young murderer, a dirt poor crofter sick of the humiliations and abuses of those more powerful than he and his family. Then there are testimonies from neighbors, doctors, journalists, and a criminologist. The final section is the trial. Dark, compelling, and inventive, this is one of the best novels I've read this year. A finalist for the Booker prize in 2016.

Nicr May 08, 2017

Researching his family history, the narrator comes across a triple murder in 1869 by his relative, Roderick Macrae, then 17. After an initial setup for verisimilitude, what follows are brief accounts from various acquaintances (with various points of view as to the nature of the killer), a long account by the killer himself of his life leading up to and including the crime (written in prison at the behest of his attorney), medical examiner's reports, an account of the trial, etc. Of course, what immediately begins to stand out are the discrepancies. A clever and accomplished piece of fiction masquerading as history.

Feb 13, 2017

I highly recommend this book. I've gotten into reading lots of historical fiction mysteries from many eras of British history (Roman, Elizabethan, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian) but this is a slightly different animal. Written as if it's a recounting of a crime in Scotland in the 1860s, complete with explanations, transcripts, various experts, you almost feel like it must have been an actual event. It isn't a thriller, it's a slow simmering work of intrigue and social commentary. For a while, I thought I was reading Peter May's Black House work because it's very similar. But this work is a reader's delight. I liked it.

Feb 02, 2017

In this historical fiction novel masquerading as an account of the crime of a 17 year old boy in 1869 Scotland, the author provides an indictment of the exploitation of the crofting community by unscrupulous landlords. While it was interesting, it did not live up to the hype it generated.

JCLAmandaW Jan 20, 2017

The difference between the story told by a criminal and the story told by the evidence can be interesting. This book examines that in a way that causes you to remind yourself (at least in the first part) that this is, in fact, a fiction book. A good book for anyone who likes the feel of true crime in their historical fiction.

Chapel_Hill_MaiaJ Jan 03, 2017

Although this isn't the type of book I'd normally pick up, I thought I'd give it a look because it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and it didn't fail to impress. The author does such a good job getting into the different narrators' voices that I had to remind myself that it was actually a work of fiction, and not a collection of real historical documents. This is not a book that ends with a neatly tied up bow. It is a book that makes you think--about the complexity of an insanity defense, about the nature of truth, about the reliability (or unreliability as the case may be) of eyewitness testimony, even from the killer himself, because there's no way to know what perceptions or beliefs may cloud their recollection, or if they might even be outright lying. If you enjoy thinking deeply about a character's motivations, then this is definitely the book for you.

Nov 30, 2016

The best crime books and thrillers of 2016 The Guardian
"The usually mystery-sniffy Man Booker prize shortlist found a place for Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project (Contraband), a smart amalgam of legal thriller and literary game that reads as if Umberto Eco has been resurrected in the 19th-century Scottish Highlands."

KateHillier Nov 23, 2016

I knew this was fiction going in but there were still points I had to remind myself of the fact. It reads very much like a true crime book, especially when we get to trial transcripts. The whole thing is very, very readable even as we move between Roddy's personal account, court documents, court transcripts and other various pieces of documentation.

Roddy Macrae is charged with three murders and for most of the book you are reading Roddy's account of his growing up in the village and the events of that day. He admits his guilt and simply explains things as he sees it. Of course, all that is challenged in various ways by the trial, a criminal expert, and the people who watched him grow up. It's really a quite fascinating book and quite a lot of packed into 280ish pages.

It's very readable, at points sympathetic and unsympathetic, and certainly gruesome. Extremely believable overall as well.

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